“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”
– A. Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address”
The American Civil War has been, and will always be, my historical topic of choice, one nearest to my heart. My research resides there, and my mentor Dr. Robert McGlone lived there with his writings about Abolitionist John Brown. When I visit a monument, memorial, or battlefield, I take the opportunity to explore and understand that historical moment. It makes sense then that I have visited Gettysburg, PA, twice during my life. While exploring those two travel adventures, this post will offer insight into my fascination with Civil War history and where it all began. Join me as I get personal, but with a pointed look at my core historical topic, and the trips that illustrate that tether, tied, and fixed by people, places, and time.
“Full of crooked little streets; but I tell you Boston has opened and kept open more turnpikes that lead straight to free thought and free speech and free deeds than any other city.”
– Oliver Wendell Holmes
I have always dreamed of living in a major city. While my hometown wasn’t small, it wasn’t a city. The closest city to where I grew up, New Bedford, was more prominent, but it wasn’t anything like Providence or Boston. In my life, I would go on to have the pleasure of visiting several major cities in the U.S. and the world and residing in a few. Three years in Honolulu, one month in Shanghai, but Boston will always be the first. In 2008, I, along with Corinne, set sights on the city of Boston as our living location. Corinne and I had recently started living together, but we did so in her suburban apartment. So, we moved to Boston. For the next 12 months, we learned to be partners, adopted our shelter pup, Mr. Tuttles, and enjoyed city living, both its beauties and drawbacks. Today, let’s explore Boston as Corinne and I did.
“We all come from somewhere. We carry that place with us wherever we go. That never leaves our hearts. Not entirely.”
– Doug Jones (Saru) from Star Trek: Discovery
My hometown matters to me. Yet, I rarely go back to the town I called home for nearly 25 years. It’s not that I don’t want to go back; it’s more that there is little calling for me to return. My parents no longer live locally, and they sold my childhood home years ago. Each time I return, there are fewer reminders of who I once was. Many of my posts situate my hometown as a consistent backdrop. Avoiding the town, therefore, is impossible. I love my hometown. I no longer want to position it on the periphery. But returning home is emotionally challenging and brings forth pleasing and unpleasant emotions; fear, happiness, and uncertainty. It’s a conflicted feeling, but I have attempted to work through these complexities. Fairhaven, Massachusetts, is ultimately home. I may not return for some time, but home will logically always be merely a drive away. After Corinne and I purchased a 2003 Jeep Wrangler, I felt the urge to explore the town I took for granted and left behind nearly two decades ago.
“Shanghai is split by the Huanpu River, a tributary of Yangtze…The one thing I know for sure about China is; I will never know China. It’s too big, too old, too diverse, too deep. There’s simply not enough time. That’s for me the joy of China, facing a learning curve that impossibly steep.”
– Anthony Bourdain, “Shanghai” on Parts Unknown
I have discussed my one-month stay in China in June of 2018 twice on this blog. Once, I discussed the trip in the context of the brewery scene in Shanghai. More recently, I detailed my weekend excursion to Beijing and visit to the Great Wall of China. Even so, I failed to cover, purposely, some of the significant locations I visited and experiences I had during my time in Shanghai. Therefore, I thought it appropriate to venture back to Shanghai and explore some of those incredible moments that I think about fondly. With the ability to travel still at a standstill, the best I can do is travel into my memories. In those recollections, I discover that I am a pretty capable traveler.
“Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once.”
– Aubrey Hepburn
I continue to reflect on those things that brought me joy, whether toys or food. One thing I have not discussed is museums. There is no need to worry; I won’t put on my historian hat today, but instead recall those places filled with artifacts, history, and have inspired, moved, and awoken me to the larger, more complex world. As an adult, I have both different and similar viewpoints about those museums or historical sites I traveled to and observed as a child and adolescent. It is interesting to remember those places I went at a young age with the lived experience and the years of museum visits I have since stockpiled.
Today, I seek to engage in nostalgia once again, but with “field trips” as my focus, as well as those museums that I cannot forget, like Battleship Cove in Fall River, Massachusetts. One foot in the past, the other in the present, I hope to respect the educational pursuits that inspired me and the various museum visits that moved me. Sure, I won’t discuss every trip or visit a historical site or museum but rather build a narrative of the moments I think of most often. As the pandemic continues, diving into my nostalgic past has brought great comfort. Like my post on food and toys, and to an extent, music, and movies, here I take on public history.
“And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.”
– John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address Delivered on Friday, January 20, 1961
Today is an exciting day in the United States. I have always been amazed by the American President’s inauguration. Maybe it was the countless hours I spent at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston, MA. Those moments as I sat transfixed in front of the large screen, watching and listening to Kennedy’s inaugural address. As I observed this visual history in the museum exhibit, it was the first time I heard a speech that inspired me. It made me feel emotionally connected to history, the moment, the point of it all. As a historian, I continuously try to reclaim that connection to the past. That’s one of the reasons why I always wanted to visit Washington, D.C., and see the important monuments, museums and consider the nation’s collective memory of the past.
Four years ago this March, my wife and I traveled to Washington, D.C., so that I could run another Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon. As I wrote in numerous blog posts about half marathon travel, I love Rock n’ Roll organized races. The half marathon I ran in Washington, D.C., is a perfect example of why I continue to travel and run. I enjoy traveling to D.C., and, especially as a historian, there is an endless amount to do. Since today is Inauguration Day and President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris will take the oath of office, I thought I would venture back to the nation’s capital and reflect on my last time there. Make sure your sneakers are tied and have your cold weather running gear because D.C. was frigid. The only way to remedy the freezing temperatures was running fast and eating some delicious food. Just beware of the eatery you go to; you might bump into someone unexpected.